It’s 10:56 a.m. on a chilly winter Wednesday, and people cluster near the front door as they wait for tables to open at Egg Shop in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. At this ovo-centric eatery, brunch is a relative term that’s celebrated any time, any day. This restaurant is a temple to the egg, with a two-hour wait on weekends since opening August 2014. And it’s all about the eggs. Fluffy, crispy, wobbly, runny, creamy, chunky, oozy — we love our eggs in all their versatile incarnations. The day after his Egg Shop cookbook released, author and executive chef Nick Korbee takes us into his kitchen to reveal his trade secrets. Learn how to make the best versions of your favorite egg styles, and enjoy superior eggs no matter where you live.
You might be a pro at whipping up an easy egg salad for one or creating an inventive deviled egg to wow your crowd, but nothing will have more impact than what you do at the start, Korbee says. Let’s state the obvious: Good ingredients make good food. But Korbee doesn’t talk from a New York City pedestal about such “localistic esoterica as a curated selection of hand-foraged, single-origin native species of pregerminated, paleo-Babylonian endosperm-only tri-colored pasta,” he writes in his book.
The Perfect Egg
The ideal egg is the one you purchase from the farmer, like at a farmers’ market, where you get to ask questions. But that’s not possible or convenient for everyone. When you’re buying eggs at the supermarket, ignore the marketing gimmics of omega-three-fortified (most eggs already have a lot of it), cage-free (there can still be unsavory conditions), and vegetarian-fed (protein like bugs in pasture-raised chickens makes eggs taste great). It’s good to have antibiotic-free eggs, but one sick chicken can kill them all, so sometimes antibiotics are needed, Korbee says. He doesn’t agree with infusing the chicken feed with antibiotics all the time though. Go with organic, pasture-raised eggs if you can. That’s your best bet. At Egg Shop, the organic, free-range eggs come from Pennsylvania. Korbee is trying to get pasture-raised eggs, but he goes through about 3,600 eggs on weekends at the restaurant. That’s a lot of pasture.
The traditional French style uses the double-boiler method to make “really almost pourable, creamy, soft scrambled eggs,” Korbee says, placing a water-filled sauce pan on his induction burner. Use any non-exploding tempered glass bowl if you don’t have a thin stainless steel bowl to place atop the saucepan. A non-tempered glass bowl will explode. “It’s always better to not do that,” he says, cracking a smile.
First, Korbee breaks a couple eggs in the bowl and starts whisking with the metal handle end of a big spoon. He tilts the bowl towards his chest so he can whisk the eggs in a vertical-cylindrical wheel motion. “Purist Frenchy Frenchies will tell you not to use a whisk because it incorporates too much air. They use a fork.”
Once you’ve whisked them in a bowl, place the bowl on the saucepan on medium-low heat — just above a simmer — and keep stirring. “The thing that’s cooking the eggs is the bowl itself,” he says. The home-cooking danger zone is now, when you don’t know what you’re looking for and you end up with a hard scramble. The more motion, the softer it will be because you’re breaking up more of the curds. If you’re going to add butter to make your scramble more luxurious and creamy, near the end of cooking is the time to do it. Pull the eggs off the burner completely while it’s still saucy. It won’t look finished. But the eggs will continue to cook as you stir off the heat, and then you’ll achieve the perfect creamy consistency.
- Never crack the eggs into the pan on a heated burner. You won’t be able to blend the yolks and whites fast enough before it cooks.
- Don’t add milk because it doesn’t have enough fat to make a difference.
- Don’t add salt, pepper, or other seasoning at the beginning. Salt draws the moisture out of the egg, making chunkier curds. Wait until the end of cooking.
The American soft-style scramble method uses direct heat via a nonstick sauté pan or a well-seasoned cast iron pan with a pat of butter or another fat, like coconut oil. After whisking with a fork in a bowl, place it in the saute pan at medium or medium-low heat, placing it on and off the burner, back and forth, to keep it from cooking too quickly before it’s blended. The result is faster, but not as creamy as the French method. You can add more butter at the end to make it taste creamier, but the more you add, the paler the eggs will get, veering away from that dark-golden yolk color and rich flavor.
Choose an acid for the water, such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. Red wine vinegar will make the poached egg an ugly, unappetizing gray color, and balsamic vinegars have too much sugar. Acid changes the pH of the water, allowing the protein to coagulate as much as possible. Simmer, not boil, the water in the sauce pan, and release the egg as close to the surface of the water as possible. “You have to risk burning your fingers,” Korbee says. He likes to crack the egg on the side of the pot. When you drop the egg’s insides farther from the surface, a long trail of loose white will go in first, separate, fan out, and create a long spidery thing. That’s what you don’t want. It makes no difference if you salt the water or not, so go with your preference.
Asking for a fried egg at Egg Shop is like asking for bread at a high-end bakery like Balthazar. It’s too general. The all-encompassing term includes over easy, sunny side up, over hard, over medium, fried hard, and crispy on the edges. While the current craze is a fried egg with a lot of oil to make crispy edges, Korbee prefers the sunny side up and over easy versions. Low-heat cooking gives better results. Bring a nonstick skillet or cast iron pan to medium heat, and then take it off the heat. “If you’re using a truly nonstick pan, you don’t need oil or fat,” Korbee says. When you pull the pan off the heat, crack an egg into it, turn the heat to very low, and let it finish. The white covers the yolk while it’s cooking, so tap the surrounding white in a three places with a utensil to provide a place for the white to run down, which allows the white to cook faster without overcooking the yolk. When the white is fully set, remove the egg with a spatula. The lower temperature also prevents you from overcooking the egg and provides more time to assemble the toast and avocado (because you know you want rich, creamy avocado, trendy or not). Fried eggs are great in sandwiches, like our Seared Arugula, Egg, and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich recipe.
Korbee likes to submerge his eggs in enough boiling water that it covers an inch above the eggs. He boils the water first, before placing in the eggs, and he adds a little acid like white vinegar or lemon juice because he says it makes the shell easier to peel. After eight minutes for a medium-boiled egg or 10 minutes for a true hard-boiled egg, he’ll give the eggs an ice bath. That’s crucial. “You have to shock them to stop them from cooking,” Korbee says. Peeling the eggs without gouging out pockmarks is important for a nice presentation, which can matter more for deviled eggs such as our Chévre Deviled Eggs with Asparagus recipe. Peel the eggs under running water, which can help separate the shell from the egg as well as rinse shell bits off. Korbee likes to make dishes healthier without sacrificing taste whenever he can, so when he makes egg salad with hardboiled eggs, he’ll use Lebanese or Greek yogurt with olive oil or coconut oil instead of mayonnaise. “With eggs, there’s plenty of fat content without it,” he says.
Fun Fact: A chicken needs 20 grams of protein to produce a 60-gram egg each day, which means the chicken has to consume about 2 percent of its 3-pound body weight daily. That’s the equivalent of a 150-pound human needing to eat 3 pounds of protein a day to produce a proportionally similar egg.
For everything else you want to know about eggs, check out our egg page with articles, videos, and recipes. And Korbee lent us a few of his own favorite recipes:
1. Roasted Beet Tzatziki Salad
Psychedelic in its phantasmagorical arrangement of shapes and colors, this salad tastes dreamy too. Besides the pickled beets, the color comes from hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, poppy seeds, mint, dill, and parsley. Get this Roasted Beet Tzatziki Salad recipe.
2. Pop’s Double-Stuffed, Double-Fluffed American Omelet
This is an omelet to share. The six-egg omelet is stuffed with sausage, cheddar, spinach, bacon, and mushrooms, and it’s meant to be sliced into wedges and enjoyed with a few people. You can use a blender (or a whisk) to get the fluffy texture inside the omelet’s egg layer. Get this Pop’s Double-Stuffed, Double-Fluffed American Omelet recipe.
3. Egg Shop Fried Chicken
First you have to brine the chicken, so this is not a quick deal. Plan two days ahead, making a buttermilk marinade and finishing these crispy pieces of perfection with wildflower honey and sea salt. Get this Egg Shop Fried Chicken recipe.
— Head Photo: Amy Sowder/Chowhound.